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Jason Todd READY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Domestic dispute - Founder and leader of a border militia group
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: May 2, 2012
Date of birth: February 17, 1973
Victims profile: Lisa Mederos, 47 (Ready's girlfriend) / Amber Mederos, 23 (Lisa's daughter) / Lilly Mederos, 15 months (Amber's daughter) / Jim Hiott, 24 (Amber's fiancee)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Gilbert, Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
 
 

 
 

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Jason Todd "J.T." Ready (February 17, 1973 – May 2, 2012) was a former American Marine, who had received a bad conduct discharge, founder and leader of a border militia group and a former member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement who had sought the elected office of sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona.

On May 2, 2012, at Ready's home in Gilbert, AZ, he shot and killed his girlfriend, her daughter and granddaughter, the daughter's fiance and himself.

Early years

Ready attended Mulberry High School in Mulberry, Florida. While Ready was in high school he had run-ins with the law.

Military service

Ready served in the U.S. Marine Corps, achieving the rank of lance corporal. He attended MCRD Parris Island and went to the School of Infantry in North Carolina. Ready was assigned to MCB Camp Pendleton with Reconnaissance Company and 1st LAR Bravo company. He was booted out of Reconnaissance Company and eventually became a Scout for a LAV-25 with a M249 light machine gun being his main weapon.

During a field exericise at Twentynine Palms Base, he arrived without his M249 and was duly punished in the field by his platoon sergeant. Because of his weight and a knee injury sustained from a PT football game, he did not serve aboard the USS Anchorage (LSD-36) when Bravo Company left with the 15th MEU in November 1995.

In the fall of 1996, Ready began his first search for illegal immigrants on Camp Pendleton during the weekends. He frequented the military stores in Oceanside California buying military gear that the USMC didn't require him to have such as rappel ropes. He enjoyed watching military movies such as Red Dawn, was able to sing Ballad of the Green Berets from memory, and enjoyed loudly playing military cadences on CD. He was a good swimmer and was able to hold his breath under water for minutes at a time.

Court martial

Ready was twice court martialed during his service. The first resulted in a demotion and three months imprisonment, the second resulted in six months imprisonment and a Bad Conduct Discharge from the Corps in 1996. Convictions in the courts-martial included theft, assault, failure to follow orders, and unauthorized absence. The revelation of this history caused him to be removed as the master of ceremonies for a Mesa, Arizona Veterans Day parade in 2006.

Vigilante activities

Ready was a founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and the U.S. Border Guard, two armed vigilante groups that patrolled the Arizona/Mexico border searching for illegal immigrants.

At the time of his death Ready was under investigation by the FBI, who were looking into a potential domestic terrorism situation involving immigrants found shot to death in the desert.

Personal life

Ready was married to Arline Lindgren until they divorced in 2003. Ready was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2003 and ordained as an elder by politician Russell Pearce. In December 2010 a fellow church member described him as "no longer active" and Ready described himself as a "recovering Mormon." Prior to moving in with Mederos he worked at an Autozone auto parts store, from which he was fired.

Politics

Ready was politically active in anti-immigration causes. He served as president of the Mesa Community College Republican Party Club and as a precinct committeeman for the Maricopa County Republicans. Ready unsuccessfully campaigned for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004 and for a seat on the city council for Mesa, Arizona in 2006. He put forth as his motto that "The Purity of the Aryan Race is the most precious resource Nature has to offer All of Humankind."

Ready founded a private organization called the U.S. Border Guard in June 2010, which aimed to curtail illegal immigration by conducting armed patrols along the Arizona-Mexico border. He attended and spoke at Tea Party movement events and brought his Border Guard organization to an Occupy Phoenix rally.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center described Ready as a neo-Nazi. Several Republicans attempted to have him expelled from his position in the party in Maricopa County due to his controversial views.

Before starting a campaign for the position of Pinal County sheriff, he left the National Socialist Movement, but had Movement member Harry Hughes serving as his campaign chairman. He ran for sheriff as a Democrat, citing the party's past support for Jim Crow and Democratic politicians who had supported racial segregation, such as Robert Byrd and George Wallace, as well as stating his opinion that there was no difference between the Republican and Democratic parties, and that in a non-partisan position such as Sheriff, political affiliation did not matter. After Ready's death former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce released a statement saying that he had previously rejected Ready due to his association with "despicable groups in society", and had objected to Ready's position in the Republican Party.

Gilber shooting

On May 2, 2012, Ready entered his home in Gilbert, Arizona, and fatally shot his girlfriend Lisa, her daughter, Amber, Amber's boyfriend, Jim Hiott, and Amber's infant daughter Lilly. He then fatally shot himself. A 9-1-1 call made from the house referred to an argument before the call was interrupted by gunfire. A teenager in the house at the time was in her bedroom and heard an argument, but survived the incident without being shot.

Victims:

  • Lisa Mederos, age 47, Ready's girlfriend. She is believed to have made the first 9-1-1 call and was found dead inside the home.

  • Amber Mederos, 23, Lisa's daughter with Hugo Mederos. She was found dead inside the home.

  • Lilly Mederos, 15 months, Amber's daughter. She was initially found alive inside the home, but was pronounced dead at the hospital.

  • Jim Hiott, 24, Amber's fiancee, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. He was found dead outside the home near Ready's body.

A local police spokesman said that this shooting was believed to have started as a domestic dispute. However, no specific motive has been revealed. Alongside the local police, the incident and premises are also being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI and the ATF, who found firearms and six grenades inside the home.

Wikipedia.org


Gilbert mass killing: Border militia leader identified as shooter

By Jim Walsh and Lindsey Collom - The Arizona Republic

May 2, 2012

A border militia leader on Wednesday shot and killed four people at a Gilbert home, including a toddler, before committing suicide, sources said.

Sources identified the shooter as Jason "J.T." Ready, a reputed neo-Nazi who made headlines when he launched a militia movement to patrol the Arizona desert to hunt for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.

Authorities have not identified the other victims, but reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Hugo Mederos said the victims were his ex-wife, Lisa; their daughter, Amber; Amber's boyfriend, whose name The Republic is withholding until his next of kin could be notified, and Amber's 18-month-old baby, Lilly.

Mederos, who lives in Tampa, said Ready lived at the home with his girlfriend, Lisa.

Ready was a former Marine who headed the U.S. Border Guard, a militia-style group that routinely performed armed patrols in the southern Arizona desert. Early this year, Ready had formed an exploratory committee for a run as Pinal County sheriff.

In a statement of organization filed Jan. 11, Amber Mederos was listed as treasurer of the Committee to Elect J.T. Ready. Her name was nowhere to be found in amended paperwork filed March 12.

Gilbert police spokesman Sgt. Bill Balafas said the gunman's motives is unknown. Authorities recovered two handguns and a shotgun from the scene, Balafas said.

Members of the anti-terrorism task force are at the scene and providing personnel to the Gilbert Police Department, according to an FBI spokesman.

Gilbert Fire Department's hazmat team went to check on the two 55-gallon drums found on the property and determined they do not represent an immediate threat. But the bomb squad encountered munitions in the house, and a decision was made to bring in federal agents to remove them and treat them as evidence.

The shootings occurred sometime after 1 p.m. in a residential area in the 500 block of West Tumbleweed Road, near Warner and Cooper roads.

Balafas said the youngest victim was taken from the scene to Maricopa Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

"There were signs of life, that's why we transported her," Balafas said. "This is a domestic situation. We do have a witness that our investigators are interviewing."

Balafas said the witness saw at least part of the incident.

DeAnn Rawson, 38, who has lived in the Lago Estancia neighborhood for 13 years, said she was "sick to my stomach, as you can tell everyone driving by is absolutely shocked."

Rawson stood on a street corner and answered drivers who rolled down their windows to ask what happened.

"I would have come and got her," Rawson said of the youngest victim. "It makes me mad. I can't have children, and you have other people doing things that are insane."

Gary Davis, who also lives in the neighborhood, stood outside Wednesday afternoon, watching the commotion.

"There's no excuse for taking a child's life," Davis said. "Nothing ever happens in this neighborhood. It's a shock to us."

Mesquite Junior High School, along with nearby Gilbert Elementary School, was placed on "modified lockdown" status -- meaning classes go on as normal, but students are not allowed to leave and no one is allowed to enter the building --- until 2 p.m.

Witnesses in the neighborhood said a SWAT team sealed off part of the area and that investigators told residents to remain indoors.

Nearly an hour after the shootings occurred, police were milling around the neighborhood of stucco homes with red-tile roofs. Police tape cordoned off three separate areas of Tumbleweed Road.


Neo-Nazi militia founder suspected of killing family in Arizona murder-suicide

By David Schwartz - Reuters.com

May 4, 2012

GILBERT, Arizona — The Neo-Nazi founder of an anti-immigrant border militia is believed to have shot and killed four people before turning a gun on himself following a domestic dispute at a home in a Phoenix suburb, police said on Thursday.

Police believe Jason Todd “J.T.” Ready opened fire at a house in Gilbert on Wednesday, killing his girlfriend, her daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend and the young couple’s toddler daughter. He then shot himself, Gilbert Police Sergeant Bill Balafas said.

Ready, 39, founded the U.S. Border Guard group, a private-citizen militia in Arizona that advocated deadly force to stop illegal immigration over the border from Mexico.

Ready had long-held ties to neo-Nazi groups in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center said on their websites.

“We are under attack at this very moment but not by invading troops [yet] or communistic threat. … What or who is it you ask? Just look around your neighborhoods and your schools. Look at the violence on T.V. Look at the border,” Ready said in a posting on his group’s website.

Police identified the dead as Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47, who they said was Ready’s girlfriend; Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; Jim Franklin Hiott, 24; and 15-month-old Lily Lynn Mederos, who was still alive at the scene but later died in a hospital.

Police found the child and the bodies of two adults inside the home and those of the other adults outside.

“We feel safe to say that this was a domestic violence issue. There was an argument, and this is purely a domestic situation,” Balafas said.

Amber Mederos worked at a nearby Wendy’s restaurant, and was reported to be in the process of moving out of her mother’s home because of tensions with Ready, who also lived there.

Time to make a better life

Her final posting on Facebook on Tuesday evening read: “Time to get the drama out of [my] life and make a better life for me my daughter and my love.”

At the time of the shooting, a female witness was in the home. Balafas said “she heard arguing, she heard gunshots [and] came through a back bedroom and located the bodies.”

Officers recovered two handguns and a shotgun from the scene on Wednesday. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said six grenades were also retrieved from the house by a bomb disposal unit from Luke Air Force base, near Phoenix.

“The reason we contacted them is because it is military ordnance,” ATF agent Tom Mangan told Reuters. He said the explosives were live, and investigators were tracing the serial numbers on them to determine their provenance.

A profile of Ready by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center said he had attended neo-Nazi gatherings in Nebraska and Phoenix, and railed against Jews and “Negroid immigration” in white nationalist online forums.

He advocated deadly force to stop Mexicans from crossing into the United States illegally, and favored laying a minefield along the U.S. border, the center said.

A chilling propensity to violence was apparent in a blog posting by Ready on the U.S. Border Guard website.

“Some of us have our fingers on the triggers; Soap box. Ballot Box. Ammo box. These were given to us by our founding fathers and mothers,” Ready wrote. “We have just about depleted the first two options.”

Police had been called to the house on five previous occasions, for incidents including domestic violence, disorderly conduct and suspicious activity. None of the incidents resulted in charges being brought.


Chilling 911 calls details last moments in Gilbert shooting

KJZZ News

May 7, 2012

PHOENIX (Associated Press) — Police on Monday released some of the 911 calls in the case of a former neo-Nazi who allegedly fatally shot four people before turning a gun on himself in a Phoenix suburb.

Authorities believe Jason Todd "JT" Ready killed his girlfriend and three others, including a toddler, in a domestic dispute Wednesday at a Gilbert home.

Ready, 39, was the leader of a group of armed civilians that patrols Arizona's desert near the Mexican border for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.

In one of the 911 calls, Ready's girlfriend is heard saying in a raised voice: "Oh my God. He's got a gun. No!" before the sounds of two shots.

In another call, a sobbing young woman tells a 911 dispatcher that "my mom and my niece and my sister are all on the floor. They're hurt pretty bad."

Asked by the dispatcher about the shooter, the woman said: "It's my mom's boyfriend, JT Ready."

Besides Ready, Gilbert police have identified the victims as Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47, Ready's girlfriend; Lisa's daughter Amber Mederos, 23; Amber's 15-month-old daughter, Lilly; and Amber's boyfriend Jim "Jambob" Hiott, 24.

Lisa Maderos' 19-year-old daughter Brittany identified herself to the dispatcher in a 911 call, saying she heard Ready and her mother "fighting and screaming and I was in my room under a bed... I come out and they're all on the floor and there's blood."

Gilbert police said they found two handguns and a shotgun at the home when they responded to the 911 calls.

A neighbor is heard on another 911 call saying he "heard about six shots" and saw the bodies of two men with "blood coming from their head" outside the home.

The neighbor added that he had just moved in next door to Ready, only knew his first name and thought he was a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Authorities said Ready was a former member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and led a civilian border patrol group known as the U.S. Border Guard.

The FBI was already conducting a domestic terrorism investigation of Ready at the time of the shootings. The FBI's investigation dated to when Ready was a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and continued into his participation with the border group, according to The Arizona Republic.

Search warrant affidavits obtained by the Republic show federal agents seized numerous computers and munitions from the Gilbert home where Ready lived and died in an apparent murder-suicide. The warrants imply weapons seized at the murder scene were stolen from the U.S. military. Focus on those weapons could trigger a larger federal investigation.

The murders gave the FBI access to Ready's documents and computers inside the home where he lived with Lisa Mederos and Brittany Mederos.

Documents connected to the search warrant show that the FBI agents seized two computer towers and two laptop computers, correspondence, cellphones, police and Nazi uniforms, white-supremacist propaganda and bank statements.

Agents seized two assault-style rifles and multiple rounds of ammunition. The reporting FBI agent focused on "approximately two dozen military ordnance/40 millimeter grenades" loaded with explosives, tear gas, buckshot and smoke.


One year after J.T. Ready shootings, a family contemplates warning signs

By Jim Walsh - The republic / Azcentral.com

April 28, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Brian Holmquist clutched his wife's knee as they sat in the living room.

Jeanne sat next to him in the half-dark room, the afternoon Florida sunlight not quite filling the space. Nearby was Hugo Mederos, who had once been married to Brian's sister.

Family photos surrounded them, on the mantel over the fireplace, on the table, on the walls. Around his neck, Brian wore a gold cross containing the ashes of the loved ones they lost in Arizona.

Brian didn't even know the man's last name, he said.

His sister, Lisa, called her boyfriend "J.T."

Brian didn't know Lisa had been living with an avowed White supremacist, a man who led a border-vigilante group. That Lisa's boyfriend kept an arsenal at her Gilbert home. That Lisa had tried to get J.T. to leave, had even gone to the police about it.

If Brian had known enough to type the name "J.T. Ready" into his computer, he said, things might have ended differently.

"I would have jumped on a plane and handcuffed my sister and her kids and brought them back here," Brian said. "If we had Googled his name, I would have been out there the next day."

Instead, Brian didn't learn J.T. Ready's name until May 2.

On that day, Ready raised a tan 9 mm Beretta semiautomatic handgun and killed four people — Lisa Mederos, her daughter, her daughter's fiancee and her 15-month-old granddaughter — before turning the gun on himself.

Only one person in the house was left alive, Lisa's second daughter, Brittany.

The massacre in Gilbert shocked a state that had known Ready as a sometime political candidate and the leader of the U.S. Border Guard anti-immigration group, but not a murderer. It helped trigger an implosion in the border-vigilante movement as other activists turned away from any connection to the killings.

But most of all, it tore at this family, living six states away. Lisa's brother, Brian. Her sister-in-law, Jeanne. And Hugo, grandfather of the massacre's youngest victim.

Since the shootings, the family has kept a low profile, with each member moving from shock to anger to a grudging acceptance.

In an interview this month with The Arizona Republic and 12 News, family members shared their memories, their emotional journey and their hopes for the one young woman who survived.

All wondered the same thing: if they could have done something to prevent the heartache.

Hugo and Lisa Mederos raised their two daughters, Amber and Brittany, in Gilbert. Hugo was an aircraft mechanic. Lisa was a stay-at-home mom. She collected early American antiques and furniture.

About 20 years ago, when the girls were little, their grandfather came from North Carolina to visit. Rolf Holmquist said he painted an angel on the wall of the bedroom Brittany and Amber shared, its wings spread wide above them.

"I just wanted someone to watch over them," Rolf Holmquist said.

In 2005, Hugo and Lisa split up. Hugo moved to Florida. Lisa kept the house, and worked odd jobs from time to time.

On Jan. 16, 2008, Lisa and Brittany were jogging along Cooper Road in Gilbert, less than a mile from home, when a passing SUV side-swiped another and rolled off the road.

Lisa pushed Brittany out of the way, relatives said, trying to protect her. The girl was injured, but the vehicle landed on Lisa, crushing her lower body, breaking a hip.

Lisa spent 10 months in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Family members came to Gilbert from all over the country to help. Lisa learned to walk again.

Finally, she went home, back to a life on her own. She did everything she could to become independent, relatives said. When her car needed repair, she went to an Auto Zone store for advice.

That's where she met J.T. Ready, who worked at the store.

Ready had been active in politics and anti-immigration activism. He had run for Mesa City Council and other offices, and served as a Republican precinct committeeman, but he also had ties to neo-Nazi organizations. He eventually founded a group called the U.S. Border Guard, which once proposed putting a minefield along the U.S.-Mexican border. The organization drew the attention of experts who track hate groups. The Anti-Defamation League had monitored him for years.

By 2011, Ready had moved into Lisa's house.

Rolf Holmquist said the family was happy at first when they learned Lisa had a new boyfriend.

"We were happy for her, but the wheels came off," he said. "He was very domineering. He would listen in to her talking with us" by telephone.

Ready, who targeted undocumented immigrants, was living with a woman whose two daughters had a Latino father. A friend would later say that he sometimes called Lisa's granddaughter "half ugly" because she was part Latina.

Lisa's father knew the relationship had turned bad. Lisa had given him a secret code, and a telephone number for Gilbert police: If she ended their conversation by using the word "OK," he was to hang up and call it.

Ready hadn't paid Lisa anything for their living expenses, her father said. She didn't want to have to move out of her home or to leave her antique collection, fearing Ready would destroy it, as he had smashed things during past arguments.

On Feb. 28, 2012, a police report shows, Lisa went to Gilbert police headquarters. She told an officer that she wanted to end her relationship with her boyfriend, and asked how she could get Ready out of her house.

She told police about two domestic-violence incidents. In one, she said, they had argued about their relationship, and after she poked Ready in the cheek, he sat on top of her, choking her. In the other, she said, he had covered her mouth and nose during an argument in bed.

Officers had no physical evidence Lisa had been injured, no witnesses to back up the allegations, a police spokesman would later say. They would investigate the claims, but at the time, they offered her options for getting the man out of her house.

She could seek an order of protection from Gilbert Municipal Court, next door. With a court's order, police could confront Ready that same day, and he would have a choice: leave on his own, or be arrested. She also could file court paperwork to evict Ready, a slower process.

The police report says Lisa became tearful and left the police station. She never went to court to file for the order of protection.

A police officer went to Lisa's house on Feb. 29, the day after she reported the abuse, and again on March 5, but found no one home.

An officer found Lisa and Ready at home on March 7. Lisa told the officer she was fine. Ready refused to talk to them about Lisa's reports of domestic violence.

It was nearly two months before May 2.

*****

Jeanne Holmquist owns a pink T-shirt with four names printed on the back. Lisa, Amber, Lilly and Jim, each with their birth dates, each with the same date of death.

Brian owns a similar shirt, in black.

Sitting in her living room, Jeanne remembered the phone call she got in early 2012. It was Lisa, asking for her help.

"She said, ‘I want to break up with him,'" Jeanne said. "All we knew is that she was living with the same guy she met."

"I said, ‘Lisa, you can break up with some guy. Tell him he's got to go,'" Jeanne said.

Jeanne said she didn't understand the danger, didn't understand what Lisa was afraid of.

"Now, I understand why she wanted help," Jeanne said. "I wish I had done something for her."

But Jeanne also said going to Arizona might not have saved anyone and may have added to the death toll.

"It could have been us," she said.

What happened inside Lisa Mederos' house that May afternoon took place mostly among those who are not alive to talk about it. But 911 records, police reports and new details from a lead investigator piece together a rough picture of the day.

Lisa and Ready lived in the house on West Tumbleweed Road with her younger daughter, Brittany. Amber, 23, had moved to an apartment in Mesa with her 15-month-old, Lilly — a "delight," aquaintances would call her, with dark hair and blue eyes.

Amber was engaged to Jim Hiott, a National Guard veteran who had served in Afghanistan.

Police reports would later indicate that Ready and Lisa had been arguing the night of May 1, then again the next day about noon. Ready accused Lisa of breaking something he owned.

Amber, was planning to pick up her sister, Brittany, for lunch at Joe's BBQ in downtown Gilbert. Amber arrived with Lilly and Jim.

Then the gunshots started.

Police believe Ready shot either Amber or Lilly first — one, then the other, in quick succession — near the front door.

Lisa called police. Investigators concluded she was still on the phone when she edged around a corner and came into Ready's view. He shot her in the face, then, after she fell to the ground, again in the back of the head.

Jim was talking on his phone outside the house. Police believe he may have walked toward the front door after hearing the gunshots, but turned to run when he saw Ready emerge, armed.

Ready fired three times. The third bullet hit Jim in the back of the head. He fell, still clutching his phone in his left hand.

Ready then raised the handgun to his own head, just above his right ear, and fired.

Sgt. Jesse Sanger, who supervised the first officers on the scene, said all of the victims except Jim had contact wounds, from the gun barrel being pressed against their heads.

The whole shooting took perhaps less than a minute.

Investigators would later find other guns in the house, plus three .223 caliber rifles and a .22 in the garage. They also removed a Nazi flag, uniforms and military grenades.

About 1 p.m., as they arrived at the scene, police kicked in a bedroom door. Behind it, they found 19-year-old Brittany, crying, still on the phone with a 911 operator.

In the backyard, a German shepherd barked. Police didn't want to risk a tangle with the dog by going out the back, so they led Brittany from the bedroom through the house toward the front door.

Just keep walking, they implored, as she stepped over her mother and her sister.

Her father says she kept her eyes closed.

Brian Holmquist wished he had known. Jeanne Holmquist wished she had done something. Hugo Mederos had a different perspective.

In the shootings, Hugo lost a daughter, a granddaughter, and an ex-wife. His loss, he said, is intensified.

He is the one who left them.

"She was a fantastic mother and a fantastic wife," he said, sitting on a wooden chair in the Holmquists' living room. "I was the one who betrayed her."

Hugo was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States when he was 8, first living in New York and later in Miami and Tampa, where he met and married Lisa in 1986.

When they divorced, he left.

"She didn't have a relationship with anyone for years," he said. "She was hoping I would walk back through that door."

Hugo had gone back to Florida. He married his second wife, Dagmara. They had a son.

And when Lisa became involved with Ready, he believed, she hid details of abuse from her family because "she felt embarrassed that the only relationship she found was the wrong one."

He said his daughters protected his ex-wife's privacy by not telling him about Ready's abuse.

"She had in her mind that no one would love her," Hugo said. "I hurt her so bad, she was very vulnerable. She didn't deserve me and she didn't deserve that animal."

The days after the shooting brought Lisa's family to the scene of a tragedy.

The funeral was private. Hundreds of people showed up at a candlelight vigil.

Hugo also took Lisa's antiques to Merchant Square Antique Marketplace, a couple of miles away in Chandler, where she had purchased most of them as a regular customer. Brenda Montemorra, the manager, said Lisa, Amber and Lilly had visited the store a few days before May 2.

The store sold Lisa's antiques in a silent auction and donated $8,000 to the family for funeral expenses and other costs.

"It was such a tragic event. She was a nice lady. I felt for the family," Montemorra said. "It was the least we could do."

Hugo said support from the community helped him to survive the initial shock from the slayings.

"In the face of all the evil, Arizona and its people opened its arms to me," he said.

After the funeral, Hugo returned to the house to box up some mementos. He taped the box closed and hauled it back to Florida.

He took Brittany to live with him. In January, he sold the Gilbert house.

The massacre had farther-reaching effects.

It contributed to the decline and collapse of the border-vigilante movement, according to Heidi Beirich, director of the intelligence project for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.

Beirich said J.T. Ready's shootings, along with the conviction of two other border activists in the 2009 slayings of Raul Junior Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, in Arivaca, led many followers to abandon the movement.

The number of border-vigilante groups tracked by the center has declined from 309 in 2010, to 185 in 2011, to 38 in 2012, Beirich said. She said it is possible that none will be charted this year. The Southern Poverty Law Center had argued for years that racism, rather than border security, was driving the movement.

"Basically, this movement collapsed," she said. "I think it had a devastating effect."

Hugo Mederos said the victims of Ready's rampage were not racists, despite their association with Ready. He said Ready manipulated and coerced them.

"I don't want my family seen as racists like that animal," he said.

Lilly's father, Jess Boggs of Mesa, had stayed involved in her life, though his relationship with Amber had fizzled. He remained friends with Amber and with the Mederos family, but struggled to cope with the loss.

In Florida, the relatives are learning.

Brian Holmquist is seeing a psychiatrist. Brittany is seeing a counselor.

Brian described his loss at a church service in Florida that raised money for a domestic-violence prevention program.

Jeanne Holmquist read, "For the Love of Lilly," a poem she wrote on a sleepless night shortly after the slayings.

Brian and Jeanne Holmquist hope to volunteer in a domestic-violence program when they are ready emotionally.

Rolf Holmquist wishes more had been done after Lisa's visit to police two months before her death. "They let Lisa down," he said. "They could have done something." He said Lisa didn't seek a court order because she feared retaliation by Ready.

A Gilbert police spokesman said officers had offered her the best options within the law.

The Mederos case is under review by the East Valley Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, a group of police and domestic-violence experts. They examine one fatal case each year to offer recommendations on how laws or procedures may be changed to prevent future deaths.

"We are hanging onto the hope that we can make something good out of this,'' said Rolf Holmquist, Brian and Lisa's father.

For Hugo, the last image of his older daughter is one that stays with him.

At the funeral, Amber lay next to her baby, Lilly, in a single casket. Amber was holding Lilly's hand.

"My last vision of her was of her holding her baby," Hugo said.

Hugo's younger daughter, Brittany, is 20 now. He still has not asked her about what she saw that day.

"Maybe I am scared and maybe I don't want to know," Hugo said.

Brittany knows few people in Florida, he said. She makes frequent trips back to Arizona to see friends.

Hugo said Brittany is leaning toward staying in Arizona and enrolling at Arizona State University. He is glad to see her focusing on the future, but would have preferred spending more time with her.

"I thank God for her," Hugo said. "I pray for her every day."

They have yet to open the box of memories from the house in Gilbert. He hopes one day they can do it together.

Hugo, Brian and Jeanne all look back at the warning signs and think about what they might have done.

They also all share another belief about that day in Gilbert.

As Brittany hid in the back bedroom, the angel her grandfather had painted decades earlier hovered behind her on the wall.

They believe it was watching over her.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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